The church needs to be more digital. For small churches especially, the digital world can level the playing field, giving us a broader reach and wider ministry impact.
As I wrote in The Gatekeepers are Gone: What’s Holding Your Ministry Back?, we need more churches taking advantage of online services, podcasts, livestreaming, social media, blogging, you name it.
Online church is not just necessary, it’s important, even essential. The speed, convenience and world-wide reach of the internet is a wonderful tool. The digital world is a great place to network about faith.
But church will never be entirely digital. Screen-to-screen is no substitute for face-to-face. Digital reality cannot replace actual reality.
(UPDATE: This article was written and published in 2017. I've been culling some old blog posts for a new project, and I keep running across articles that could have been written for our current situation during the COVID19 lockdown of 2020. This is one of them.)
Real Church, But Not Enough Church
I’ve heard people complain that online church isn’t real church. I disagree. Online church is real church for a lot of people. Especially for those who are restricted from attending church IRL (In Real Life) because of handicaps, geography, work schedules, and more.
Online church is real church, but it’s not enough church.
There are some aspects of church that we can get online, like teaching, worship, even conversation. Some churches have online pastors who are available to answer questions, receive prayer requests and lead people to Christ. That’s real church!
But there are a lot of aspects of a full church experience that require flesh-and-blood people to actually hang out in the same physical space together.
From receiving communion, to laying on hands for prayer, to working out our conflicts, a full church experience requires our physical, human presence.
What If The Church Was Invented Today?
A couple years ago, I saw a commercial for an electric car. The ad was built around the question “What if the car was invented today?” The answer, not surprisingly, was that there’s no way we would be running our cars on fossil fuels. It would be as unimaginable as computers having a gas tank. It ended with the tag line, “The question isn’t why electric?, it’s why gas?”
We need to ask those kinds of questions about how we do church. Questions like, “Why are we doing it this way?” don’t undermine the church, they’re essential for our future.